Articles from the September 1997 Unification News

uViews Sept 2

The Holy Mother and Her Friends

"Having created man 'male and female,' the Lord also wants to place the New Eve beside the New Adam in the Redemption ... Mary, the new Eve, thus becomes a perfect icon of the Church …" Pope John Paul II, April 1997 cited in Newsweek, Aug. 25, 1997, p. 51 "Hail, Mary" by Kenneth L. Woodward

Over the past century, the devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus, has been booming in the Catholic Church, the mainstream body of Christ. This is unavoidable and obvious in its origins. Human beings are constituted male and female and need a feminine referent for our spirituality. And we cheer the articulation of this longing within the greatest structure of Christian faith, even as we note the variations on the theme manifested in various spiritualized forms of feminism (goddess worship).

What is wonderful is the correlation of Catholic and Unificationist teaching in this arena, which the devotion to Mary highlights. Mary is celebrated, reports Woodward, as the "free woman" who chose to say yes to God at the Annunciation where Eve said "no" in the Garden of Eden--and thus, adds Woodward, made salvation history possible. Not only possible, sadly, but necessary.

But there is something overly spiritual, let us say, about the Catholic Church. It is a world of Fathers who are not fathers and Mothers who are not mothers. It is wonderful to have father and mother figures as spiritual leaders and counselors, but is that word, "figures," really a part of God’s plan of creation?

I once read that breast milk is the model for manufactured baby formula. The closer Gerber can make their powder to match the real thing, the better. And we wouldn’t use the term "father-figure" if "father" is not the model. The model is not "priest," it is the human, biological father. The father-figure is a substitute, a supplement.

Finally we must ask, "of what is he a father, is she a mother?" The answer is, good Catholics would agree, that the priest participates in the power of Christ to re-create us as children of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is fine, as far as it goes. But still, priests and nuns are not complete parents. There is something very crucial missing. To boil it down, that something is sex.

Sex, for Catholics, is a messy way to get us sinners into the world in order that we may be saved. The best of the best exclude sex from their lives. And, of course, the paramount sign of Mary's sainthood is that she was a virgin. The biblical record that Mary had a number of children seems not to register. Nor does it matter much that she "did not understand or approve of what her son was up to." (Woodward) That is putting it mildly.

The Catholic exaltation of Mary to the status of co-operator in the Redemption makes of her the veritable new Eve. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that place her in the position of bride to Jesus, the new Adam? Is a mother becoming a bride a good family model? Shades of the Oedipus complex!

We would like to consider a different interpretation of this same history based upon the assumption that God created sex for a good purpose, a very good purpose, and that people in His will have the capacity to participate in that very good purpose. By "people in His will," we would include in particular those involved in the birth of His Son.

Jesus’ conception was through an act of God, by the mediation of angels and a physical act of love. The one who denies the full humanity of Christ, including his coming in the flesh, is called antichrist by the apostle John. A flesh body requires a fleshly father. That in no way demeans the birth of Christ. God is the owner of love.

Theologian Thomas Oden stated that "Jesus obviously had to have a physical mother." Why is this so obvious? The reason, from the traditional Christian point of view, cannot be biological, because it is equally true biologically that Jesus had to have a physical father. The reason therefore must be theological: Jesus had to have physical mother because Isaiah said he would. But that begs the question of why God would do such a thing in the first place. Well, all things God does, including the Virgin Birth, are to His greater glory.

Martyrdom and Family Values

There is a new book out entitled Fools, Martyrs, Traitors: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World, and it is reviewed in the current New Republic magazine, by Michael Ignatieff, who has some very interesting things to say.

For one: "It was Socrates who first bequeathed the idea that the ultimate test of a proposition’s truth is our willingness to die for it." This idea, Ignatieff notes, no longer holds in the global era. In this era, people are martyring themselves for a wide variety of ideas, not all of which can simultaneously be true.

Another: "Thinking about martyrs also confronts us with what Flaubert called the incorrigibly bourgeois character of modern moral evaluations. We have turned family values into a synonym for values tout court. So to us the martyrs’ willingness to sacrifice hearth and home to the demands of truth looks like pathological selfishness."

Ignatieff observes that the Christians posed a challenge, therefore, to "the civic virtues–to the virtues of family, city and empire–(rousing) the persecutorial ire of the authorities."

Ignatieff takes as mutually contradictory the bourgeois idea of the family and classical civic virtues, on the one hand, and the willingness of an individual to die for what he believes in, on the other. Upon reflection, he is taking the mother’s position, appropriate in what is still a liberal journal, that my child’s life is more important than the nation, the religion or the ideological cause.

Ignatieff mistakenly separates the "family" from the nation, religion or larger social cause, that is, he is depicting martyrs as people who fail to recognize the greatness of the family values/civic virtues and go off allowing themselves to be killed for great but questionable causes.

His analysis is weak, I believe, for two reasons. One, the nation, religion and cause are outgrowths of the family. They reflect the imperfections of the family, because they are created by individuals, each of whom is shaped by his or her family. So if one is mounting a serious criticism of the social order, then one’s criticism includes the family order as well.

His second error is his pat assumption that everyone knows what family values are, that he knows what they are, and that whatever they are, they are just fine, whether among right-wing Christians in contemporary America or among the Stoics of second-century Rome. This position is fraught with fallacy.

And one more: "Our ideas of identity are connected to reflexivity: to having thoughts, mostly skeptical, about our thoughts. For a martyr, identity is not reflexive. Finding yourself means throwing yourself so utterly into a cause that the self is suffused with what it believes. The martyrs of the past make us uncomfortable because they put our ironic standpoint into question. They make us wonder whether irony will be the death of principle. They make us ask why we never dare to take ourselves more seriously."

I think that modern Americans do not take themselves seriously because their consciences tell them that they have not found the truth which is worth dying for. Their reaction is to challenge all truth claims, to the point of becoming cynics and mockers. Testing truth claims is one thing; giving upon the possibility that truth exists is another. The effects upon culture and personality, in the latter case, are tragic.

No Rest for the Wicked

Where can God rest? He can rest where His creation is completed.

Let us compare rest and work. Reverend Moon is actively calling for development of the "hobby industry." The hobby industry, he explains, is a very broad category because it finally means that you are enjoying life, being happy about what you are doing. This is conditioned by your state of mind, of course. A person whose mind and body are in harmony will enjoy doing something which would be deemed work by someone whose mind and body are in conflict.

For example, running miles and miles a day to deliver letters, let’s say, would be deemed oppressive labor, but people jog miles and miles a day as a hobby. Hunting to put meat on the table is work; hunting for sport is a hobby. Thus, as a result of the separation of mind and body, mankind views "work" as something distasteful.

Growing up, I was very disturbed with the bifurcation of work and leisure. I determined that I would not "work" in the sense of having an occupation I did not enjoy. So I found me a rock'n'roll band in need of a helping hand. I like rock, I like playing it, and if I can earn a living doing what I like, it doesn't get any better than that.

But my mind and body were still not united, so rock music was not enough. It was not that it was "work." The problem was that I was doing what I liked but was still not happy. Then the whole of life became "work," in that my life was seamless; I could not relegate my mind/body disunity to the category of work. My mind/body disunity was exposed.

In traditional work, one can attach one's mind/body disunity to their occupation, and "enjoy" the rest of life. Why? because when you are "off" from work, you can allow your body to be subject without the complaint of conscience. The conscience is quelled because, after all, you've done your work and deserve to rest.

God's situation is analogous. His mind and body are united, but His relationship with His children is not good. Therefore, everything is drudgery; nothing is enjoyable. From our side, God appears as the Big Boss. Everything is great for the Big Boss, He has everything He needs; He is always happy and taking it easy while we are sweating away. Religion explained why this has to be. Those who reject religion are rebelling against the Big Boss and His minions, the priests who take the fruits of our labor. This rebellion culminated in communism.

But we see that communism and religion are based upon the same falsehood, namely, that God is just fine, resting and enjoying His existence. This is the God accepted by religionists and rejected by communists. If we deepen our understanding of God, then we can transcend this struggle.

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